When I was a kid we would all gather ’round and open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. Christmas day is when we would all gather ’round to eat.
What we did back in those days was different than what I had read in books at school. Those books talked about waking up on Christmas morning and rushing down to the Christmas tree to see what Santa had brought the night before (Christmas Eve).
As a kid, it didn’t bother me that we did things a little different though because getting toys before the other kids in town was sort of a big deal.
Christmas Eve or Christmas Day were fairly interchangeable during my single years as an adult, as again, tradition wasn’t really a thing.
Once our son was born I became suddenly more traditionally minded in that through the course of his young childhood I opted to rather have him wait until Christmas morning to discover his gifts under the tree. I remember him setting out milk, cookies, and carrots for Santa (carrots for Santa’s Reindeer) and then playing hell trying to get to sleep on the sofa in the living room while he waited for Santa.
This short family tradition (of 17 years) held up until this year. This year we opened presents after church on Christmas Eve day, in the afternoon. We also cooked the Christmas dinner on the same day. By doing it this way we reserved the entirety of the actual Christmas Day to do … well … nothing. Doing things this way may open up another yet to be discovered family tradition I think, because as I sit here this Christmas morning the wheels are turning.
I’ve always been an independent sort. Norman Rockwell I think would have been somewhat displeased with me in that even though I’ve looked at all of his traditional Christmas stuff, I just never really ever came around to that whole traditional American Christmas thing he kept going on about through his art. I know it all looks fine on paper, but the American spirit is somewhat much more diverse than all of that. Christmas is too great of a time to be trying to adhere to what someone else might think is appropriate or customary. American families create their own traditions every day all year long and that’s just fine with me. Freedom … it is what it is.
We may end up doing on Christmas the same things we do on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving my wife fixes a plate for our neighbors that may not have family or are too old to fix a full blown meal with all of the fixings. Just imagine if everyone thought of their neighbors in that regard. We could end hunger by next week at 2 o’clock if everyone took those who live close to them into consideration.
The so-called little tradition that we established with our son was broken this year and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. People are dynamic, fluid, and in constant change. Being stuck in just one spot as it might relate to tradition can be somewhat of a bore I think.
There’s a traditional saying that goes like this, “If you don’t behave, you’re going to get coal in your stocking”.
I’m sort of an odd duck I suppose (with regard to tradition) in that I’ve often found myself wondering why anyone getting coal in their stocking was such a bad thing. Having heat in the middle of winter sounds like a dandy deal to me.
Life is such that families are going to arrange their own traditions accordingly. Some families will make arrangements with regard to their work, extended family, distance apart, and so on and so forth. The traditional Christmas is set more as a guideline than anything else. We’ve got the very basic concepts of Christmas established and that frees us up to make our own Christmas traditions.
In closing I’d like to add a quote from a friend in Missoula who said —
“If you see someone at the store today struggling somehow just help them out. Don’t think about it. Just do it. They will really appreciate it.”
I think that quote says it all and captures quite nicely what Christmas is about. We should all consider making what he said not just a Christmas tradition, but rather a tradition to be practiced throughout the entire year.
I hope that this Christmas season finds you and yours well in all of what you do.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.